It’s true! The two civilian oversight bodies recommended by the Ad Hoc Commission on Police Practices in October 2015 have been established and are now up and ready to function. The two organizations were created by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors which accepted the Commission’s recommendations with modifications reducing their scope and authority. Still, establishment of the Independent Police Auditor and the Civilian Review Panel (CRP) is a major departure for the County and a police department hitherto accountable only to itself.
The recently appointed Independent Police Auditor (IPA), Richard Schott, reports directly to the Board of Supervisors. Along with the Civilian Review Panel, the IPA is intended to restore trust between residents and the Police Department. He is responsible for monitoring and reviewing internal investigations of police officer-involved shootings, in-custody deaths, and the use of force in which person/s are killed or seriously injured.
In fact, Mr. Schott is now monitoring four active police internal investigations. He is to make public reports of his findings as well as making recommendations for changes in police policies and practices. In addition, his office provides administrative support to the volunteer-staffed CRP and “accessible, safe, impartial, and responsive intake for complaints against the FCPD and its employees”.
The nine-member Police Civilian Review Panel consists of leading citizen volunteers with relevant experience appointed by, and reporting to, the Board of Supervisors. Its Chairman is Adrian Steel. CRP’s mission is to “enhance police legitimacy and also build and maintain trust among citizens, the Board of Supervisors and the FCPD.” The CRP acts on the basis of citizen complaints submitted to the CRP, the IPA, or the Police Department. Unlike the IPA, the Civilian Review Panel deals with complaints involving abuse of authority or serious misconduct by Police officers.
The CRP reviews completed internal administrative investigations to assure their “accuracy, completeness, thoroughness, objectivity and impartiality”. In conducting a review following a complaint, the CRP may interview the police investigators and management, but not the officer who is the subject of the complaint. The CRP holds public meetings to hear from the complainant and may “walk through with members of the community how the investigation was conducted, including findings of fact, evidence collected and witness statements.”
The Panel will hold public meetings on issues within their jurisdiction and police policies and practices. At these meeting, public comment is invited to assist the panel in making their reports for improved policies and practices to the Chief of Police and the Board of Supervisors.
To find out how they work, i.e., the specific authorities and procedures of the Independent Police Auditor or the Civilian Review Panel, go to their respective websites:
Both the IPA and the CRP may be contacted via email at IPAPoliceAuditor@fairfaxcounty.gov and by telephone at 703-324-3459. If you are interested, you might contact them and ask to be put on the mailing list for their reports and schedules of their meetings.